Obama and the Peninsula

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Obama and the Peninsula

With Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, U.S. policy regarding the Korean peninsula will change.

Obama has publicly said he would pursue policies different from current president George W. Bush.

For a start, he said he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il without preconditions but after careful consideration. Obama’s position is to improve North Korea-U.S. relations and bring the North into the international community. This contrasts with the Bush administration’s policy to continue to press North Korea.

This new approach is going to be a diplomatic challenge for both Koreas.

South Korea and the United States should use this opportunity to strengthen their alliance. Obama has stressed that Korea is a U.S. ally and that a strong relationship should be maintained.

Frank Jannuzi, senior foreign policy adviser and Korea policy team leader for the Obama campaign, has emphasized talks with South Korea before meeting with the North.

That gives a sense that the healthy relationship between Seoul and Washington will be maintained.

However, there are slight differences in how to approach North Korea. It is urgent to sort things out in advance to prevent the differences from becoming a source of dispute.

Most of all, an improvement in relations between North Korea and the U.S. is expected. Obama’s Democratic Party pledged to end North Korea’s nuclear program in a verifiable manner. This means that there is no progress if the North cannot satisfy this condition.

However, the Obama administration is likely to approach the issues by ending North Korea’s nuclear program and the hostile relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula and improving human rights in North Korea at the same time.

If North Korea accepts all these and lets the U.S. verify the termination of its nuclear program, there could be a breakthrough.

We would welcome an improvement in the relationship, but this should not come at the cost of Seoul?Washington ties.

Obama’s foreign policy is to talk even to enemies, using U.S. influence in all directions but applying strong sanctions against countries that break promises.

There will be sea change in Northeast Asia during Obama’s presidency. The government needs well-calculated policies to use this opportunity to South Korea’s advantage.
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